CHAPTER TWO 

THE DRAGON AND
THE QUEEN BEE
 

“I don’t know why I bother, you all have minds like sieves.” Mrs. Fallon, otherwise known as the Dragon, walked between the rows of chairs and slammed each student’s pop quiz on his or her desk. A chorus of groans rose, and the cracks around the teacher's down-turned, ruby-painted lips deepened as she announced each grade: "D, D plus, D minus, F, F, D, C minus –”

“C minus!”

“Yes, Gwen, C minus.” She picked up Gwen’s test paper and looked it over. Gwen lowered her head in shame. “C minus is what you deserve if you think the first Magna Carta was signed in 1225 by King Henry III when it was actually signed by King John in 1215. At least you knew that Magna Carta is Latin for “Great Charter”, unlike Omar, who wrote, and I quote, ‘the Magna Carta has something to do with lava’. 

“I don’t grade on a curve, Gwen. If you want an A in this class, you will have to work harder. You should at least be pleased to know your C minus puts you on the top of this dung heap. They say those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it. If that is true, I will probably be seeing a lot of your blank faces next year.”

She continued handing back tests: "C minus, D plus, F, D plus…"

Sandy looked at the blaring red D plus on her test. It would bring down her average. She could have had an A minus average. What was the point of learning this stuff anyway? It was not that bad when they studied American history last year. Mr. Simon was fun: he brought in music and videos, and he got so excited when he talked about the Great Depression, the Cold War, and the Peace Movement in the Sixties. The only thing that seemed to get the Dragon excited was the opportunity to watch her class fail.

Dan tugged Sandy’s arm. She looked over at his desk. In his notebook was a cartoon of a dragon with blue eye shadow, pencil thin raised eyebrows, thick red lips and a ruler in its claws. A speech balloon by its head read, “Whom shall I smite today?”

Sandy muffled a giggle. Everyone jumped when Mrs. Fallon slammed her hand on her desk.

“Sandra Day Goldberg, would you care to share what it is you find so amusing with the rest of the class?”

“No, Mrs. Fallon.”

“It wouldn’t happen to be this?” Dan closed his notebook, but the Dragon grabbed it from him anyway. She flipped through it quickly.

“Drawings?” she said. “This isn’t art class, Daniel.”

She violently ripped out a few empty pieces of paper and handed them back to him.

“I will give you the rest of your notebook after the lesson, and I expect you to copy all your work into a three-ring binder by class time tomorrow. These spiral notebooks are unacceptable, and so are these drawings. Is that understood?”

“But I’m left-handed,” said Dan. “The rings in binders get in the way when I try to write.”

“They don’t get in the way when you try to draw.” She lowered her gold-rimmed glasses and glared at him.

Sandy shrank in her chair. Come on, Dan, what are you doing? Please, don’t cause trouble.

“That’s because I draw on the back side of the page,” he said.

“Well, from now on you will leave the back side of the page blank.” Mrs. Fallon turned around and walked to the marker board in the front of the class. Sandy sighed. That was lucky. She must be off her game: her punishments are usually a lot worse.

 “Class, open your books to page 243,” said the Dragon. “Now that you have proven you know absolutely nothing about the Magna Carta, it is time for you to show me how little you know about your homework from last night, feudalism and the Middle Ages.”

The rest of the lesson dragged on as it always did. Dan drew on his desk. He had to draw on something. It was just the way he was.

Sandy thought about the day they met in kindergarten. The teacher, Mrs. Sun, had asked them to draw flowers, and Dan drew a big, beautiful sunflower with a brown circle in the middle and pointy petals filled in with bright yellow crayon. Sandy tried to copy it but got frustrated and made a big yellow and brown squiggle instead. She sat in the corner, crossed her arms and started to cry. Dan took her hand and patiently explained to her about the parts of a flower, their shapes and sizes. Together they made a pretty rainbow colored daisy.

“That’s not what a real flower looks like,” she told him.

“It is if you want it to be,” he said.

--*--

The cool girls ate lunch in the cafeteria or not at all. The cool girls didn’t bring their food outside to the quad, especially not on a cold November day like this. It was beneath them to sit with the losers, the teacher’s pets and the outsiders. They didn’t have mothers who insisted they take sandwiches packed in bags with boxes of juice. Or if they did, they didn’t care. They drank diet sodas for lunch and occasionally sneaked cigarettes in the girl’s bathroom. So what was the queen bee herself doing here with her too tight shirt, too short skirt, blond-streaked hair, and entourage of drones? The glint of trouble in Jade’s brown eyes matched the sparkle from the imitation diamond stud in her nose. Jade catwalked up to Dan and grabbed his backpack. She opened it and pulled out the spiral notebook.

“Here it is girls.” She waved it in front of her friends. “The infamous collection of forbidden artwork.”

“What do you want?” Sandy asked.

Jade leafed through the pages. “Dragons, wizards, spaceships, superheroes, unicorns, elves. Oh, I like this one. The knight is clearly you, but who’s the damsel in distress?”

“Oo,” one of the drones cooed and pointing at the picture. “Look at all the little hearts.”

“Well, it certainly isn’t you, Jade,” said Dan. “You haven’t got a heart.”

“Oh,” she replied with a pout. “That really stings, Dan my man, and to think I came here to do you a big favor.”

 “You have got to be kidding!” Sandy said.

“Buzz off, Sandra dear,” Jade replied.

“The only one who’s buzzing off, Jade, is you,” said Dan.

“Whatever.” Jade rolled her eyes, wedged herself between Dan and Sandy and pinched Sandy’s arm hard. Sandy screamed. She wanted to kick the queen bee back to her hive, but the drones got in the way. Jade flicked her hand to shoo Sandy from her mind, turned her back on her, and started talking to Dan.

“I am so sorry the Dragon took away your notebook.” She twisted a lock of hair around her finger, and put her other hand on his shoulder. “She didn’t have the right to do that.”

“Uh, uh,” buzzed the drones.  

“You’re an artist,” Jade continued, “and it’s your notebook. You have the right to draw whatever you want in it. So we were thinking – ”

“Hey, look,” said one of the drones. “There’s Gwen.”

“Gwhy would I care?” said Jade. The bees laughed. It was a running joke with them.

“Oh, Gwen dear,” Jade called across the yard. “Gwhat a lovely sweater. It looks so nice and cozy gwarm.”

Gwen got up from her place on the wall, picked up her bag and walked back into the building, her head held high.  Sandy had to admire her for that. Jade frowned.

“Gwhy did her parents call her that anyway gwhen she was born?” a drone added.

“I know,” said Jade. “I mean, gwhat were they thinking?”

All the bees laughed. Dan turned red.

“Come on, Sandy,” he said. “We’re leaving.”

Jade grabbed his shoulder and pulled him back down on the wooden bench.

“What’s the big deal, Dan my man? We were just having a little fun.”

“At someone else’s expense.”

Two of the drones pointed at each other and broke out laughing.

“It’s Gwen!” squealed one. “Dorky Dan is hot for the class brainiac!”

“Gwendolyn, oh Gwendolyn, let down your hair, so that I may climb the golden stair!” shouted another looking up at some imaginary tower. “Or better yet, let down your braces and make it a ladder!”

“Hey!” shouted Jade. She folded her arms and glowered at them until they gulped and shifted their eyes to their feet.

“Anyway, getting back to the Dragon,” she said turning to Dan, “we think it’s time someone put her in her place, and we think that someone should be you.”

“No!” shouted Sandy.

“Are you even here?” Jade replied over her shoulder. “So what do you say, Dan my man?”

“No.” Dan tried to get up again, and once again Jade pulled him down.

“Come on,” she said, “you don’t want to be a part of the loser squad for the rest of your life, do you?”

“You know it would really impress Gwendolyn,” said one of the drones. “What girl doesn’t want a handsome knight to rescue her from a terrible, fire breathing dragon?”

“Yeah,” said Jade. “The Dragon gave Gwen a C minus. Your ladylove’s honor has been impugned, whatever that means. Will you let this crime go unpunished?”

“Come on, Dan,” said Sandy. “We’re going to be late for our next class.”

“What are you talking about?” Jade said. “I don’t hear the –” 

The bell rang. Everyone picked up their backpacks and headed inside.

“You ought to get a watch,” said Sandy.

“Funny, I though I heard someone talking to me,” said Jade, “but there’s nobody there.”

 

* * *

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